Edwina Albrecht (second, left) with members of the Dundalk Youth Theatre as the new term got underway. Picture: Arthur Kinahan
A brand new term at Dundalk Youth Theatre gets underway this coming Saturday (April 14th) and the team behind the theatre are hoping to inspire a whole new generation of performers and writers at the An Táin Arts Centre.
Having been a fixture in Dundalk for a decade now, the theatre – run by manager Edwina Albrecht – continues to give youngsters interested in the theatre the chance to get close to the action.
Now more than ever before, that is possible due to the Dundalk Youth Theatre’s link up with the An Táin Arts Centre. After basing themselves at DkIT since the start, last September saw a new term in a new venue.
It’s hard to argue otherwise – the link up between Dundalk Youth Theatre and An Táin is a match made in heaven.
“Because An Táin is a centre for arts, we thought it would be useful to be in a space where there would be loads of arts on,” Edwina explains. “The kids get access to this and they can come into a building and see where it might lead if they want to go on.
“They can say they’ve been on a stage that professionals have been on,” Edwina continues. “That’s cool for them.
“You’re closer to the action,” says Leah Rossiter, Dundalk Youth Theatre’s lead facilitator. “The workshop room is right next to the gallery and there’s been different exhibitions on which we bring the kids in to see. It poses different thoughts and ideas they might never have been exposed to.”
Leah, a trained actor, is part of Quintessence Theatre, An Táin’s company in residence. She linked up with the Dundalk Youth Theatre in March of last year and has helped facilitate the smooth transition from one venue to another.
With the performance space, workshop room, proper rigs and staging and green room too, this is as close to real theatre as the kids in the group – which meets every Saturday between 2pm and 4pm for 12 weeks during term time – could expect to get.
It would be difficult not to be inspired and the 2018 crop of youths have no trouble in that department.
Leah, from Drogheda, explains what Dundalk Youth Theatre is all about. “We do weekly workshops on Saturday from 2pm to 4pm. An Táin has become a new home for Dundalk Youth Theatre, it’s closer to the centre of town which is easier for the kids.
“We would have an overriding theme in each term and we would aim to put on a production once a year. We are going to have a show in November. We don’t know what that is yet, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Right now, the theatre are concentrating on a theatre classic – fairytales. “You’d have a world of fairytales, you might have Jack meeting Rapunzel and they might meet in the Marshes,” Leah explains.
“We give a modern context to them. The kids are exploring different characters, doing a lot of multi-rolling and devising and improvising scenes. We have a theme in the term and we plan each workshop but we see where it goes.”
According to Edwina and Leah, the weekly workshops allow the participants to really sink their teeth into role-playing and allows them to take their imagination wherever they like. It’s for the introvert, as well as the extrovert.
“They totally bring the energy to the room,” Edwina says of the youngsters. “It’s a quiet space and they come in and the ideas are flying.
“We’ve got a great mix of kids. Some are very quiet but then you give them a piece to do and a totally different side comes out. Something in drama brings something out in them. That’s what we try to find. It’s not always somebody who is a performer.”
Leah believes having a “safe space” for the kids also allows them to grow into what they’re doing – whether their interest is in performing, directing, writing or a supporting role backstage.
“It’s great for the kids, because it’s about their personal growth as well,” she says. “Being a teenager is tough. It’s fostering that through drama skills. They learn the kind of skills you’d be using in your every day life as well. They’re a really keen, lovely group. They want to explore theatre and eachother.
“When they work with a character,” Edwina adds, “they have to think about stepping into someone else’s shoes. They get a bit of an understanding of someone else’s experiences.”
“It’s really important that all of the ideas come from them,” Leah says. “It gives them a sense of ownership. It’s fostering those ideas. It’s exciting times because we’ve just moved here, with a partnership with An Tain.”
Having started with the Dundalk Youth Theatre last March, purely as an assistant, Leah now divides her time between the Quintessence Theatre group based in the Crowe Street venue and being the lead facilitator on Saturdays.
“I got to know the kids really well,” she said. “I’ve been facilitating the workshops since September. I really enjoy it. I feel like I really know the kids – and who they are.”
There are currently 12 kids on the books so far and, having fallen a little behind schedule with the snow this year, Dundalk Youth Theatre are keen to expand further.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like or where you’re from – you’re accepted into the group,” Leah (below) states.
As well as the three yearly terms, Dundalk Youth Theatre also host an annual summer camp and they also go away on a youth residential weekend every year. They link up with Mad Youth Theatre in Drogheda for the trip - a very first jaunt away from home for some of the members.
Originally having started out as a pilot programme in 2005, Edwina, alongside Pat McKenna, took the helm of Dundalk Youth Theatre from Denis D’Arcy. In June last year, the group produced ‘Double Vision’, the final product of last year’s three terms.
“It was looking at social issues, screens, there was a Syrian refugee in it, loss,” Edwina and Leah explain.
“It was amazing to me the depth of things they were worried about. In the last ten years that I’ve done it, the Youth Theatre has changed amazingly from the kids and what they’re dealing with it on a daily basis,” Edwina says.
The group also found how quickly social issues and the world could evolve. A term started out with an almost dystopian idea of outsider Donald Trump becoming one of the most powerful men in the world.
By the end of term, it was a reality and the 'out there' scenarios played out in group sessions felt all too real.
“Everybody has a story and a voice,” Leah tell us. Edwina adds, “Everybody’s view counts. We tell them ‘Please use it, this is the perfect place to do it.’
Dundalk Youth Theatre runs for three terms a year, each lasting 12 weeks. It takes place every Saturday between 2pm and 4pm at the An Táin Arts Centre on Crowe Street in Dundalk. It is open to 12 to 18-year-olds and all are welcome.
Dundalk Youth Theatre also run an annual Summer Camp, taking place this year from August 7th to 10th.For more information, contact 087 294 9637 or check out their Facebook page –